Today within wider Christendom false prophets and teachers abound spewing forth their spiritually seductive and destructive heresies. Many preach wealth and health and about having it good in this world and promote blessing and prosperity and well-being while ignoring the weightier matters of the law such as sin, repentance, holiness and the great foundational doctrines of the Word of God, not to mention the doctrine of the last days and the Second Coming of Christ. The Lord Jesus and the apostles all warned us about the infestation of false prophets and teachers that would inundate the Body of the Messiah in the last days and how to recognize them.
The Lord Jesus Himself said; “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-16)
The Apostle Paul wrote; “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.” (1Timothy 4:1-2)
The Apostle Peter wrote; “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:1-2)
“Ramping up his efforts”
Satan knows it is the last days and that his time is short before he is incarcerated in the depths of the earth for a thousand years. He well knows that the Lord Jesus is coming back soon so he is ‘ramping up’ his efforts to destroy Israel and to spiritually deceive and defile the body of the Messiah, the faithful Church of the Living God. His primary method of spiritual deception has always been to use false prophets and teachers to do his dirty work for him. The Word of God teaches a great deal about false prophets and they appear all of the way through the Bible.
How to recognize them
How do we recognize false prophets and teachers in the Body of the Messiah? What do we look for? When we see and hear someone prophesying or teaching what questions should we be asking? While there are many questions we could ask we will just look at nine questions related to distinguishing between true and false prophets and teachers.
#1. Do their prophecies come true or do they have a track record of failed prophecies? It is one thing to teach about Bible Prophecy and there are differing views on differing aspects of it that are held by men of God who are seeking to understand God’s revelation concerning it. However, it is something else when a man or a woman is giving ‘personal prophecies’ and that in the name of the LORD. According to the Torah if he or she is a true prophet then what they prophecy in the name of the LORD must come to pass with a 100% accuracy or else they have prophesied falsely and have been preaching rebellion according to God’s Word. Moses wrote; “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:22)
#2. Are they always prophesying about revivals and moves of God that never happen? Today there is no end to the number of so called ‘prophets’ who are telling God’s people that they will not see suffering and persecution but that God wants them to take kingdom dominion over the nations and present them to the Lord Jesus at His Second Coming. They are always prophesying moves of God’s Spirit that never eventuate as they did in the time of Jeremiah even when the Babylonians were at the very gates of Jerusalem. When the city fell they were nowhere to be seen. These that do this kind of thing are “clouds without rain” in that they can never produce what they claim to have much like the prophets of Baal who contested with Elijah on Mt Carmel. The Body of the Messiah (the Church) is stricken with the ‘prophets of Baal.’ They make a lot of noise but get no results. They cannot make “the fire fall!”
#3. Are they magnifying signs, miracles and wonders above God’s Word? Satan can counterfeit miracles signs and wonders as he did when Moses and Aaron were confronted by Janes and Jambres the practitioners of the occult in Pharaoh’s court. Up to a point these enchanters were able to duplicate the miracles of Moses and Aaron by occult power but in the end their power could not stand against the real power of God. Today many hunger and thirst after signs, miracles, wonders, blessing. Prosperity and kingdom dominion and having it good in this world and many false prophets are leading them astray but very few hunger and thirst after righteousness. False prophets and teachers spend most of their time giving out personal prophecies dreams and revelations which are for the most part are the delusions of their own imaginations and fortune telling wrapped in Christian packaging. They have never stood in the presence of God because if they had they would never say and do what they do. Added to this when you see them operating you never hear sound exposition of scripture. Many do not even know their Bibles and have no ability to rightly divide the Word of God. In the New Testament signs, miracles and wonders always follwed the preaching of the Word of God. They were ever emphasised above God’s Word or used as a substitute for preaching the Word of God.
#4. Are they always preaching about money? Just watch them on Christian television programmes and over the internet appealing for money and promising prosperity and blessing to those who give liberally into their ministries. They are always talking about money, prosperity and quoting such verses as; “the wealth of the sinner has been laid up for the righteous” but in quoting this scripture for example do not see it in its evangelistic and Millennial context and concerning Israel and the glorified saints in the Messianic Kingdom to come. They are preaching covetousness to mask their greedy appetites for money and making it a means to godliness which it is not! Many Christians, “seeking to be rich in this world having wandered from the faith, have pierced themselves through with many griefs!” They have forgotten that “godliness with contentment is great gain!” These money hungry so called ‘prophets (profits) and teachers,’ if you can call them that, are the modern money changers in God’s temple “profiteering on the Blood of the lamb” According to the apostle Peter they are “experts in greed-an accursed brood!” (2 Peter 2:14)
#5. Are they sound doctrinally and does their teaching line up with the teaching of God’s Word? Charles Spurgeon said; “The Word of God is the anvil upon which the hammers of men’s opinions are smashed!” He also said; “How do you see if a stick that looks straight to the naked eye is in fact bent? By standing it next to a perfectly straight stick” implying of course the Word of God, the Bible. Charles Finney said; “God does not use a court Jester to search the consciences of men!” Many so called prophets are into light hearted merriment and making people feel good today. Jeremiah the prophet saw the dire things coming upon the people of God chasing after the false dreams and visions of the false prophets but said that he could no sit in the circle of the merrymakers. Many of the so called ‘prophets’ today are in fact court jesters! Today we have clowns in the pulpits instead of preachers!
#6. Do they ever mention the judgments of God and preach against sin and backsliding and apostasy? All of the Old Testament prophets mentioned these things repeatedly and so did the Lord Jesus and the apostles. Down through history God has raised up men to do this. John Wesley always said that men must first have the law of God preached to then before they have the grace of God preached to them. If men do not know they are breakers of God’s laws and commandments and great rebels in God’s sight and doomed to eternal hellfire they will never appreciate the grace and mercy of God! For example the Old Testament prophets did preach about God’s blessings but they also preached about His judgements. Many preachers today only emphasize God’s blessing but avoid the judgement to come and do not preach that holiness of heart and life without which no one will see the LORD. The Bible says that; “A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.” (Proverbs 11:1) True prophets and teachers will always keep in balance the judgements with the mercies of God and not emphasize one above the other. As it is written; “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalm 85:10) The Old Testament prophets, the Lord Jesus and the apostles all did this and it is seen throughout the entire Bible. The false prophets in the time of Jeremiah were always prophesying blessing and prosperity and came under the judgement of God. They did not bind up the wounds of those who needed spiritual surgery. Many prophets and teachers follow in their footsteps today.
#7. Do they live lives separated to God! In the Book of Acts we are told that “the apostles gave themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” Paul wrote to Timothy “to command certain men not to teach false doctrines” and also told Timothy “to preach the word of God in season and out of season” because many of God’s people “had itching ears” to hear what they wanted to hear and not what they needed to hear having themselves already “turned aside to fables.” False prophets and teachers in reality are men and women driven by their fleshly appetites, their insatiable appetites and their own personal aggrandisement or by actual demon spirits. (1 Timothy 4:1-2) True prophets live continually in God’s presence and hear from Him and declare what they hear. They do not go beyone what is written, neither do they embellish the Word of God. They do not care about fame, fortune or the approval of man. The proclomation of God’s untainted and uncompromised Word is their passion! and in that lies their power which comes from God. Indeed as it is written; “ Surely the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
#8. Do they avoid Bible prophecy, the last days and the Second Coming of Christ? Eschatology was part and parcel of the teaching of the prophets, the Lord Jesus and the apostles and is found all the way through the Bible. The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus was the blessed hope that the first century believers had especially in light of the affliction, tribulation and persecution they faced on a daily basis. It has always been that way down through the history of the Church for those who take up their cross daily as faithful bond-slaves of the Lord Jesus and follow Him, being aliens and strangers in this fallen world. Many preachers and teachers today and so called ‘prophets’ avoid these things and promote the hype of kingdom dominion theology and having it good in this world. Seeker friendly, seeker sensitive ‘theology’ is “all the rage” in many churches today. Many no longer even preach about the end-times as it seems to be unfashionable to do this in many churches today. Many of the exhortations in the Bible to holy living are given in light of the Second Coming of Christ. (2 Peter 3:10-14)
#9. Do they really shepherd the flock of God? When Paul was leaving the assembly at Ephesus he said to the elders; “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:28-30) The Lord Jesus Himself said; “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd, and the sheep are not his own. When he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf pounces on them and scatters the flock. The man runs away because he is a hired servant and is unconcerned for the sheep.” (John 10:11-13) Those who are prophets and teachers and pastors today, are they in the ministry because they have a calling from God to shepherd His people or are they in the ministry for their career, their stipend, their pension or for their social status? Do they protect the sheep from doctrines of devils and warn and faithfully instruct the sheep against those who would secretly creep in with destructive heresies that malign and twist the Word of God or do they close a blind eye to stay popular with their congregations? Do they preach what their ‘flock’ needs to hear or what they want to hear? Those who are in the ministry for money in reality care little if at all for the spiritual welfare of God’s flock and when the ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ encircle the flock these ‘shepherds’ do not stand against them and in reality abandon the sheep to doctrines of demons.
“Lord Lord! “
As so in light of these things the Lord Jesus said some very sobering words: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
“You will know them by their fruit”
The Lord Jesus did not deny the fact that they prophesied, healed, cast out demons, and did the miracles in His name. Even Judas Iscariot who betrayed the Lord Jesus also prophesied, drove our demons and healed the sick in the name of Jesus but in the end fell away and went down into his own place in hell. The indictment in the end for all false prophets and teachers is that they did not do the will of God. And so the Lord Jesus says; “You will know them by their fruits.”